Skip to Content

Skriker: Scene Synopsis

The Time: The present. The Place: In and around London, England.

Scene 1……………………………………………..The Underworld

While the play is about the two sisters and their encounters with The Skriker, it is also about the condition of our world. Various references are made in the play to war, global warming, and a host of other negative influences that plague our planet. A brief video montage of network news from the past nine months opens the show and reinforces this. The Skriker appears and briefly torments the human souls she has seduced and imprisoned in the underworld. What follows is a very long monologue written in a poetic, surreal style. this monologue may confuse you. For insight we offer an analysis by critic Christian Nagy:

"The very first scene of the play is an extremely long monologue spoken by the Skriker, which at first sight resembles a senseless pile of words put together haphazardly. All the same, after a while the words miraculously begin to form a meaning, however obscure and impalpable.

Churchill’s play is a fairly traditional one in the sense that the initial speech of the Skriker retains the function of a prologue. A good prologue creates the atmosphere of the oncoming play, puts the spectator or the reader in a mood in which they are able to tune into the plot and the lives of the characters to be presented. It often refers to the events to come; sometimes it turns to the audience with some request or another. Similarly, the Skriker’s monologue is able to create the strange, half-rational, half-irrational aura of the scenes to come.

The unhindered flow of the words addresses the readers’ subconscious rather than their conscious, rational mind; one feels, by means of a mysterious sixth sense, rather than knows the exact meaning of what the Skriker is speaking about. By the end of the speech, therefore, we have seemingly unstructured clusters of information about a young girl who is in trouble now, (“may day, she cries,”) and about an unnamed baby (“put my hand to the baby”). Besides the function of creating a strong sense of atmosphere, the above extracts retain another role from the traditional prologue: they also refer to the main points of the action. “May day, she cries,” says the Skriker and she presumably speaks about Josie, who, having murdered her baby, is in a mental hospital at the beginning of the play. Josie does not actually use the well-known radio signal of planes and ships in danger, but she is clearly in danger due not only to her murderous act but to the disquieting presence of the Skriker as well. The baby without a name is Josie’s daughter who had been killed before she could be baptised.

The initial monologue of the fairy has also a significant role of characterizing the Skriker herself in at least two ways. In the first place the way it is rendered is very much like a speech of a shaman in trance, which only the initiates can understand. The shaman, who is connected with transcendental forces, brings his tribesmen a message from the world beyond, and the Skriker’s uncontrolled string of free associations based on puns, alliterations, homophones, and rhymes has a similar effect. The uneasy feeling that we do not understand it, yet it might have a coherent meaning, gives the speech an air of other-worldliness and suggests that its speaker is not of our familiar material world.

The speech contains several references to persons, objects, concepts and literary pieces, which are more or less significant parts of the Western, and especially of the English-speaking world. They are sometimes fairly explicit, sometimes distorted, or even carefully concealed; yet a lot of them can be detected. There is an extremely complex reference to the Devil in the following sequence:

“Out of her pinkle lippety loppety, out of her mouthtrap, out came my secreted garden flower of my youth and beauty and the beast is six six six o’clock in the morning becomes electric stormy petrel bomb.”

The biblical allusion to the Book of Revelation is woven into a net of other allusions: the “secreted garden,” Eden, is inseparably connected to an allusion to a figure of speech “the flower of my youth,” which again is partly a constructive element of the cliché that follows “youth and beauty.” “Beauty” is put together with “beast” and thus forms a reference to the legend of the beauty and the beast. Among the wide variety of cultural allusions there are further biblical ones, for example the one to the story of the fall in the Book of Genesis and “eat the one forbidden fruit,” or the one to the seven angels and their trumpets in the Book of Revelation. Another layer of allusions is the one made to literary pieces: “everything gone with the window cleaner” includes the title of Margaret Mitchell’s famous best-seller, Gone With the Wind, another well-known title is concealed in “wail whale moby dictated the outcome into the garden maudlin," Herman Melville’s Moby Dick or the White Whale. The sequence “what can the matternhorn piping down the valley” hides a part of a line from William Blake’s Introduction to the Songs of Innocence.

Such a delicate net of cultural references suggests that the Skriker is not an ordinary person, not even an ordinary fairy. She has pre-eminently the English, in a wider sense, the whole of Western culture in her unconscious, and now she lets it pour out, lets it come to the surface. The clearly recognisable references are but the tip of the iceberg, what is below in the depth is everything made, every word uttered or written, every legend conceived, the sum of all human beings dead or alive. Probably the closest relative of such profundity is Carl Gustav Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious, which contains in each individual an obscure and secret corner of archetypes, ancient memories and fears. If the idea of such a relationship holds water, the style of the Skriker’s speech can be characterised by the term “stream of the collective unconscious” and is organised in a surrealistic way by the ocean of the common cultural memories of humankind.”

Or, to look at it in a simpler way: this is the Skriker’s language; it is “Skrikerese.”

Scene 2……………………………………………..A Mental Hospital

Lily, who is pregnant, visits her sister Josie. Josie is in a mental hospital for killing her child. The Skriker appears and possesses a female mental patient.

Scene 3……………………………………………..A Street

A derelict woman is possessed by the Skriker. The Skriker causes Lily to cough up coins.

Scene 4…………………………………………….. A Pub

The Spriggan appears and reacts to movies playing on a TV in the pub. The Skriker, (in another human incarnation) tries to understand how a TV works.

Scene 5…………………………………………….. A Street

Josie discovers the Skriker has punished her: toads come out of Josie’s mouth.

Scene 6……………………………………………..A Room

The Skriker appears as a sham fairy and produces a shower of flowers for Lily.

Scene 7……………………………………………..A Park

The Skriker appears as a small child and attempts to manipulate Lily. Josie, aware of the Skriker’s tricks, attacks the Skriker.

Scene 8……………………………………………..The Underworld

The Skriker transports Josie to The Underworld. Rather than the torture of human souls displayed in scene 1, Josie is “treated” to a feast attended by the captured human souls being pressed into service as banquet guests.” An underworld captive possessing no entrails is humiliated.

Scene 9……………………………………………..A Park

Josie’s journey into the underworld occurs in an instant of our time and Josie finds herself back in the park as in Scene 7.

Scene 10…………………………………………….A Room

Lily and Josie are in their London Flat. Lily has had her baby. Josie advances the idea that Lily’s baby may be a changeling. According to Celtic Legends, fairies would steal human babies and leave a fairy child (changeling) in their place.

Scene 11…………………………………………….A Kitchen (The London Flat)

The Skriker appears as a sexual hustler and further attempts to seduce Lily.

Scene 12…………………………………………….A Room

The Skriker appears in the guise of Marie, a friend of Lily’s.

Scene 13…………………………………………….A Mental Hospital

Lily confronts the Skriker in the form of an old woman. Lily embraces the Skriker with her heart and soul. The Skriker has won.

Scene 14…………………………………………….A Dark Place: a hundred years later

Lily is transported into the future where she sees her daughter and great granddaughter. She takes a piece of food from her great-granddaughter and the Skriker's victory is complete.

Special Thanks to The Technology Improvement Fund Committee, Dr. Lynn Hensel, Rick Goward, Ron Labbe, Bill Freitag, Sandro Sylvestri, HFCC Voice and Data Technicians, Judy March, Henry Morgan, Brian Johnson, and Mousepad Computers.